Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Harry Potter 6 Trailer

The teaser trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is out. Its a nice little trailer that conveys what the movie is about. Considering that this is the book where we learn about Voldemort's secret and the way to vanquish him, its no surprise that we see more of the young Voldemort than Harry in this teaser.

I found the first half of the book, which detailed Harry's social life, to be quite boring. But these sections usually work better on-screen, since we've grown used to seeing the actors in those roles. Beginning with the Horcruxes, the book was a fantastic read and if even half the thrill and excitement is provided by the film, we should be in for a great ride. I can't wait to see the visual interpretation of the sequence in the cave, my favorite segment in the entire book.

I thought the book was better than books 4 and 5, my least favorite books in the series and since I liked the movie versions of those 2 books, I'm definitely looking forward to this one.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Coming Soon - Kuselan

Its been a long time since we had a Rajni movie hit the screen in two successive years. After the Sivaji euphoria, just as we were resigning ourselves to settle in for a long wait till Robot released, came the news that Rajni would star in the remake of the superhit Malayalam film, Katha Parayumbol. Sure it was only a guest role but considering the rarity with which we get to see Rajni on the big screen, a little goes a long way. Titled Kuselan, the film was wrapped up pretty fast and is set to hit screens this Friday(Thursday night if you're in the US :)

Katha Parayumbol is a movie about friendship and fame. It is the story of a barber in a village and the changes his life undergoes when the village learns that the actor who is in the village shooting for a film, was a childhood friend of the barber. Srinivasan, who also wrote the script, acted as the barber, Meena played his wife and Mammooty played the actor. I have not seen the film but have read that the actor's role was a cameo and that Mammooty was onscreen for about 10 minutes. All reviews unanimously praised the script and the emotional climax and the film was a blockbuster. Its universal appeal is clear from the fact that it is being remade in no less than 4 languages - while the Tamil and Telugu versions have Rajnikanth andPasupathy as the actor and his friend, the Hindi version, Billo Barber, has Shah Rukh Khan and Irfan Khan essaying those roles.

The record of Tamil remakes of Malayalam films isn't very inspiring. The latest, Kireedam, was a faithful remake of the original and didn't pander much to Ajith's image. But films like Manichithrathazhu and Engirundho Vandhaan were stripped of what made the originals work as they were transformed into hero-centric Tamil films. The worst offender in this regard is P.Vasu himself, as he, along with Karthik, massacred Mohanlal's classic Bharatham. But inspite of all these fears, it is a fact that P.Vasu gave Rajni his biggest hit in Chandramukhi, a Malayalam remake. So I have my fingers crossed, hoping that Vasu manages to capture whatever it was that made Katha Parayumbol so universally loved.

It comes as no surprise that in Tamil, the film has become a Rajni film. P.Vasu has proudly claimed that Rajni's role has been greatly expanded and its common knowledge that it now includes songs and stunts. And all marketing material like posters and audio CDs feature Rajni, with all others, including Pasupathy, pushed to the sidelines. This was inevitable, I guess. After Sivaji and its massive pan-Indian hype and success, brand Rajni is now bigger than ever. So having Rajni in a film and not marketing the film on his name, however small his role in it may be, is now unthinkable. Movies with strong stories still do work but it is Rajni who is going to bring the crowds in, atleast for the first few weeks.

As a Rajni fan, I'm approaching the movie with mixed emotions and I think most fans will be in the same boat. Seeing thalaivar on the big screen within a year of Sivaji is ofcourse a fantastic treat. He looks even younger and more stylish in the stills and the trailer. And while I enjoyed his larger-than-life image and commercial movies, there was a small wish in the corner of my heart that he'd do a 'regular' movie sometime and Kuselan looks like the best bet for that wish to come true. At the same time, this isn't a real Rajni film. So all those punch dialogs and stunts and songs are going to be presented as part of a 'movie within a movie' and I'm not sure if that's gonna be as effective as seeing them as part of a full movie. But one thing for sure is that this is one movie where the rest of the cast matters! Nayanthara is Rajni's on-screen jodi, making it her third consecutive appearance in a Rajni film. She even has a solo song, illustrating her current popularity. Pasupathy has shown himself to be a solid actor(though I feel he has a tendency to overdo his expressions in the emotional scenes) and should fit the role while Meena reprises her role as the barber's wife. Vadivelu and Santhanam are there for the laughs.

In these days of financial problems and production delays, the speed with which Kuselan has been made has brought cheer to Rajni fans. Lets hope the film increases the cheer and proves that as far as the box-office goes, the Superstar is always Kuberan...

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Dark Knight

Among the superheroes, atleast the ones I'm familiar with, Batman is the darkest. Right from his origins to his city to his villains, he is more serious and darker than other superheroes like Superman and Spider-man. This darkness was reflected in the Batman movies when Tim Burton was at the helm but once Schumacher took over, the films went against the spirit of the comics, becoming campy, silly and light. Christopher Nolan restored respect to Batman with Batman Begins and he continues the job with The Dark Knight, which is more ambitious and more mature than its predecessor. Anchored by a scene-stealing performance by Heath Ledger and balancing character exposition perfectly with action, it is easily the best Batman yet.

Though called a superhero, Batman is human and has no special powers, unlike most of his peers. The movie works because it recognizes this and humanizes him. He might wear a batsuit and have some cool gizmos but he faces real problems and suffers real emotions. He is a tortured individual and the movie manages to convey this.

Conflict is what drives The Dark Knight. Whether it's Batman having to choose between unmasking himself and facing the prospect of the Joker killing more people or having to pick between saving Rachel and Dent, the film constantly puts him in situations where he has to decide between equally important options. And what elevates the film is that there is no easy way out. Superheroes always have conflicts(like in Spider-man where he had to choose between saving Mary Jane and a busload of people) but they are usually cinematic ones where we know the superhero will find a way to have his cake and eat it too. Not here. Batman isn't always able to accomplish both his choices and the consequences of his actions are real and tragic. So there is genuine tension, the one aspect missing from other superhero films.

The action sequences are picturized with flair but don't overwhelm the movie. The Batbike is a really cool, nice addition and the couple of chases featuring it are superb. Going against the norm, Nolan makes the climax rather low-key as far as action goes.

Even without the shadow of Heath Ledger's untimely death hanging over his role as the Joker, it is a stunning performance. His gestures and body language create a truly unique character who exudes a quiet menace. He performs the role without the grandstanding that marked Nicholson's interpretation of the same character and this makes him more real and scarier. Bale is perfect as Wayne and does the quiet, serious part well without coming off as snobbish. Aaron Eckhart is sincere as the DA crusading against crime while Maggie Gyllenhal takes over from Katie Holmes as Rachel. Michael Caine(as Alfred) and Morgan Freeman(as Lucius Fox), inspite of being supporting characters, have their moments.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

2 New Reviews

Reviews for Muniyandi Vilangiyal Moondraamaandu and Aayudham Seivom are now online @ bbreviews.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kuselan Trailer

Adho Paar...
Rajayogam konda Superstar namma screenukku vandhaaru...

The Kuselan trailer is out! The first trailer I saw [thanks Filbert], which seems to be the version released to television channels, was a little disappointing since it was the usual montage of random clips from the film, giving us no insight into kind of movie it is. After Sivaji's superb trailer, it was quite a letdown.

But this trailer's much better and does its job well. It gives us an idea about the crux of the story (how an actor's arrival to a town affects the life of one of his childhood friends who lives in the town), apart from giving us glimpses of most of the characters. We are made to wait a little while (anticipation is good!) for thalaivar but the introduction when it happens is electrifying . His trademark walk in all those stylish dresses is a preview of the goosebumps in store for us during the actual movie. Nayan's solo rain song gets a few seconds and there seem to be quite a few comedians with Vadivelu, Santhanam, Livingston, Bhaskar and Vaiyapuri. The background score, picked from Cinema Cinema... number, works very well.

Just over a week to go :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

5 English Films

The Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D
Its a kids film and does the job perfectly as far as its target audience is concerned but doesn't offer much for adults. The 3D is nice initially. Its fun seeing things close-up and there are a few nice jolts throughout the film as a variety of creatures snap at us. But the fun does wear off pretty soon as we start look for excitement and thrills and the movie's sorely lacking in those. There are quite a few action setpieces but they are handled in a comic vein and so everything's rather tame and there's no real tension. Pretty much everything's rendered by computer graphics and so things are pretty to look at but not very realistic. So the film just feels like a non-interactive video game.

This is the Hollywood remake of the Thai horror film of the same name, which by the way, was remade in Tamil last year as Sivi. While I haven't seen the Thai original, which is supposed to be really scary, Sivi was actually scarier than this Shutter. The basic story's the same but the change in setting(its a modelling firm in Japan instead of the college in Sivi) results in the creepiness being diluted in many scenes while some of the more effective scenes(like the one in the darkroom) have been inexplicably removed altogether. The only good part is the ending, which is still effective even if not surprising. The film's another addition to the long line of weak and watered-down Asian horror films.

The Bank Job
A heist movie that focuses more on the aftermath of the heist. As the name indicates, its about a bank robbery(in London in the 60s) where a team robs the safety deposit boxes at a bank. While they are simply after the money and jewellery, the contents of some of the boxes make them the target of some rather unsavory people. The heist isn't very complicated to begin with and becomes even simpler once they start it. So the lack of the meticulous planning and detailed MO is a little disappointing. But most of the film's excitement comes after it. The screenplay is a bit complicated initially as we are shown multiple tracks but they tie in nicely towards the end.

Definitely, Maybe
The romantic comedy is definitely my least favorite genre among Hollywood movies but this one takes a route that's different for the genre. It starts off with a man telling his daughter about his past girlfriends and asking her tofigure out who her mom is. So we get three separate tracks and there's some suspense about who he does end up with.The tracks themselves aren't your usual tracks and feature interesting characters and intelligent conversations. Therevelation about the girl's mom does come as a surprise though the subsequent happenings feel a bit forced. The three actresses do well though the hero seems a little bland.

The Orphanage
Saw this a while ago but realized I never wrote about it. A Spanish horror film, that gets everything right that the Hollywood remakes, like Shutter, usually miss. It doesn't have much violence but is genuinely scary and creepy. It has some good 'Boo' moments made more effective since they're used sparingly. It has a terrific, heart-wrenching twist that leads to an unexpected, haunting climax that leaves a lump in your throat. A must-see for horror movie fans looking for more than cheap scares and gratuitous blood and gore.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Kuselan Ad

Received via email, this ad about Kuselan's release in the Bay Area. Wasn't Pasupathy supposed to be the protagonist in this film? :) Read a couple of news items about the actor being miffed about being sidelined in the film's promos. I'm guessing he'd be really p*ssed off if he saw this ad!

Thursday, July 17, 2008


That's Varalakshmi, Sarathkumar's daughter from his first marriage, who was introduced to the world at the recent Filmfare awards function. Varalakshmi apparently has a Ph.D in Microbiology and an M.Sc in management from the Edinburgh University in Scotland. But she was probably bitten by the acting bug since she also did a six-month acting course at Anupam Kher's 'Actor Prepares' academy in Mumbai. With that behind her, she is going to be Simbhu's heroine in Podaa Podi, whose creative promo photos caught my eye recently(now we know why the hero and heroine had their faces covered in all those photos. The heroine hadn't been picked yet!)

I wonder if this is the first time we are seeing the daughter of a big star enter the Tamil filmworld. Star sons are ofcourse nothing new. We have seen sons of actors(Prabhu, Karthik, Surya, Sibi) and even sons of producers('Jayam' Ravi, Jeeva) and directors(Vijay, Simbhu) make it big. But I can't think of any leading actresses who are the daughters of someone famous (I can think of only two actresses Sruthika(Thengai Srinivasan's granddaughter) and Abinayasri(Anuradha's daughter) with links to the film industry). Wonder if it is because people in the cine world know how the industry treats women and so want to keep their daughters out of it.

As Sarath's daughter, Varalakshmi's debut will certainly be a high-profile one(her only competition would've been Shruti Hassan but with her movie with Maddy scrapped, its not sure when we'll see her on the big screen). She is certainly good-looking. And Sify calls her "beautiful, tall, attractive and articulate, with style and élan to be a movie star". But we've recently seen actresses like Vimala Raman(Poi) and Nethra(Thoovaanam) who fit the same description but couldn't make it big(atleast so far). Gotta wait and see what awaits Varalakshmi.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kuselan Audio

Ever since Rajni became a superstar and became bigger than his movies, many of his films have come with the implicit warning that they will be liked only by the actor's fans(though of late, the films of many actors seem to fall in the same category). But the Kuselan soundtrack itself feels like it should have arrived with a similar warning label affixed to it. 3 out of the 5 songs in the album will give the fans goosebumps while making the rest of the listeners shake their heads at the blatant 'idol worship'.

Perinba Pechukkaara... is my favorite number, inspite of the rather obvious similarity to the composer's own Veyilodu Vilaiyaadu.... The lyrics, which eulogize Rajni, mesh well with the steady simple beats and catchy tune. Cinema Cinema... is kinda like Ilaiyaraja's Indiran Vandhadhum... in spirit as it praises cinema in the first para before getting down to singing Rajni's praises in the 2nd and 3rd stanzas. Shankar Mahadevan brings his usual enthusiasm and energy to the number(the song doesn't sound like a typical Rajni intro number and so GVP can probably be forgiven for not using SPB). Om Zaare... straddles a number of styles as it starts off in Egyptian style and ends with Malayalam chendai beats. The lyrics incorporate many of Rajni's past movies. As if Udit Narayan hadn't done Tamil enough damage, this song has Daler Mehndi making mincemeat of the language. Chaaral... and Sollammaa..., the two songs which I think are not picturized on Rajni, are simple in all aspects - tune, orchestration and lyrics. My favorite singer Shreya Ghosal sounds great as always in the former.

Overall, the tunes from music director G.V.Prakash are rather underwhelming but the lyrics make the songs - atleast 3 of them - music to Rajni fans' ears.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Napa Valley Day Trip

Went to Napa Valley today. Very little on the agenda and so - unlike our usual trips - it was a light and relaxing daytrip. First, we stopped briefly at the Robert Mondavi winery to book one of their afternoon wine tours. The tour is very highly rated but the main reason we picked this winery is that it is one of the very few wineries that we've actually heard of and whose wine we have drunk before. The winery looks pretty with lots of little gardens(apart from the huge vineyard) and so spent some time walking around. We then headed to Calistoga to see the Old Faithful geyser. This is one of 3 geysers in the US to gain the name Ol' Faithful and its always fun seeing the steaming water gush out at regular intervals. After that we headed back to Mondavi winery. Kids are ofcourse not allowed on the tour and since I've seen the tour before, I stayed with them outside while the wife and in-laws went on the tour. Headed back home right after that.

A few photos from the trip can be seen here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Yaaru Theriudha?

The toothy smile is a dead giveaway but still, pretty good make-up.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

San Diego Trip

Made a short trip to San Diego over the July 4th weekend. Drove down on Friday and reached early enough to stop at Del Mar beach for some time. It was a small beach but was wonderful and the water felt great. Perfect for a break after the long drive. We had dinner at a cousin's place and walked across the road to the park to watch the fireworks. It was Karthik's first fireworks display and the sounds scared him initially. But he grew used to them soon and enjoyed the rest of the show. Spent Saturday at SeaWorld. Caught Shamu's Believe, Dolphin Discovery, Pets Rule! and Cirque de La Mer shows. Kavya and Karthik had fun playing in the Bay of Play play area after the day cooled down a bit. Went to the Wild Animal Park on Sunday. A lot of walking but since we went early enough, the animals were active and we caught most of them in action. The Discovery Station with activities for the kids, an animal game show and Lorikeet Landing, where the kids could feed nectar to the pretty birds, provided some nice breaks. Went down to the San Diego harbor after that for a nice view of the skyline and the oceanside park there was a nice bonus for Kavya and Karthik. Drove back on Monday.

A few photos from the trip can be seen here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

3 New Reviews

Reviews for Dasaavathaaram, Kaathavaraayan and Silandhi are now online @ bbreviews.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Wall-E is a true family film rather than a kid's film. The cute characters and fast action keep the kids entertained while the mature story, dazzling animation and subtle messages make the film an intelligent and involving experience for the adults. With Wall-E, Pixar creates another must-see film with something for everyone.

Wall-E is a robot whose sole task is to compact trash and pile it in an orderly fashion. His one-note life is suddenly disrupted when a spaceship deposits another robot Eve. Wall-E becomes friends with Eve without realizing that Eve is on Earth for a specific job. Once the job is done, Eve shuts down and is taken back by the spaceship. But Wall-E is unwilling to let go of his friend and boards the spaceship to try and get Eve back.

manages to be captivating without any singing donkeys, talking automobiles or colorful fish. For almost half the film, the film has only two robots in a dreary post-apocalyptic world and yet it is more entertaining that most films filled with humans. Wall-E's tentative courting of Eve is delightful and the two make a cute pair that we really begin to care about. With just a limited set of expressions and non-human grunts, they create a cute screen couple - even when one of them becomes immobile.

The movie turns bright and energetic once the action moves to the spaceship. While the state of the humans delivers a cautionary note about the direction today's society is headed in, the chases keep the film moving at a fast clip. A few humans too get to play a role in saving the Earth in some inspirational scenes.

Visually, Pixar has been raising the bar with each of their films and the bar's been raised to an all-new level with Wall-E. Whether the trash-filled landscapes of the future or the bright, futuristic settings aboard the spaceship, the screen comes alive and we frequently forget that we're watching images created solely on a computer. And on a smaller level, the attention to detail is amazing in locations like Wall-E's abode or the spaceship when the humans' needs are attended to.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Pooda Poodi Promos

Looks like Simbhu has finally realized that the best way to make people look forward to his film is to hide his face! But jokes apart, these are some very fresh and creative promo posters for the otherwise unattractively-named Poodaa Poodi (this is definitely one of those movies for which people are gonna have a lot of trouble coming up with the English spelling!). Hope the movie shows atleast some of the creativity on display in these stills.